Purple patches and purple uniforms – a colour connection on and off the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles on the opening day of the inaugural European Golf Team Championships at the picturesque Perthshire venue.
In a low-key start to the innovative event – it involves men and women competing on the same stage for equal prize-money – it was difficult to ignore the fact that an army of volunteers in those purple uniforms outnumbered the spectators.
In fairness, that’s actually a lot more difficult to gauge on the vast acreage of a golf course than either a cycling velodrome or swimming pool, but more of the same from the Scottish contingent here and interest from home fans will certainly prove very appealing indeed.
All enjoying one of those purple patches in their respective matches, Liam Johnston and Connor Syme joined forces to get off to a winning start in a Great Britain team, as did Catriona Matthew and Michelle Thomson, with Holly Clyburn and Meghan MacLaren respectively.
Add in Georgia Hall, the newly-crowned British Women’s Open, also recording a victory in tandem with Laura Davies and, with all due respect to the other nations taking part, things couldn’t really have started on a better note for the bodies involved in trying to deliver something different to the staple stroke-play diet in golf.
“It’s really good fun,” said Grimsby’s Clyburn after joining forces with Matthew to record a 4&3 victory over Sweden’s Emma Nilsson and Lina Boqvist. “Being partnered with Catriona is really good and we combined well together.”
Matthew is using this event as part of her preparation for captaining Europe in the Solheim Cup on the same course in just over a year’s time. That event is a notch or two up from this in terms of infrastructure and interest, but the North Berwick woman is pleased with what she’s seen so far. “I don’t know what I expected, but the whole set up is great,” she added, the pair having taken eight holes to “warm up” before “stepping on the gas a bit” at the start of the back nine. “The event will grow and grow, it’s always difficult the first year, but I think I was pretty pleased.”
Thomson’s beaming smile showed that’s exactly how she felt after she and MacLaren had recovered from losing the first hole to beat Iceland duo Olafia Kristinsdottir and Valdis Thora Jonsdottir 5&4. That was quite a scalp for the GB pair as Kristinsdottir was the first Icelandic player to earn a card for the LPGA Tour.
“It’s a really good start,” admitted Thomson. “We gelled really well. We actually don’t know each others’ game that well, but Meghan just puts it on the green and holes the putts, which is good for me.” Refusing to take all the credit, MacLaren added: “Michele was rock steady as well. We didn’t do too much wrong and didn’t give them too many opportunities to build up any momentum.”
Producing the best golf of the day, Hall and Davies shared nine birdies in beating Spaniards Noemi Jimenez and Silvia Banon 5&4. “It was great fun,” said Hall, who shows no signs just yet of coming down from her major high. It was mainly volunteers and officials that were there at 8am to see her hit the opening shot of the event. “It was quiet,” she admitted in comparison to a frenzied atmosphere at Royal Lytham on Sunday after her win. “I quite like it that way and it’s a new week.”
Playing the course for the first time – he walked round it as a spectator at the 2014 Ryder Cup – Syme birdied three holes in a row from the seventh. That burst, coupled with Johnston holing a putt earlier to stop them going two down, set up a 4&3 win over another GB pair, Rhys Enoch and Charlie Ford. “Getting off to a winning start is key. It’s a step in the right direction for getting into the mix on Sunday,” said Syme.